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General manager Jonathan Irby, who made the shock announcement last week, cited a period of difficult trading conditions resulting in the centre no longer being a viable business.

The announcement came as a complete surprise to the centre's 60 dealers, all BADA or LAPADA members, including John Bly, who were advised of the closure at a meeting with Mr Irby on Thursday, June 20, and in a subsequent letter.

The dealers have just over two months to find new homes.

The centre's history goes back 45 years to when it was opened in 1967 by the wife of the 5th Duke of Bedford and Anna Maggs of Yew Tree Antiques, whose sole outlet is still at the Woburn Antiques Centre where she sells decorative antiques and antique maps and prints.

"I have had a shop at the centre for 23 years and none of us were expecting this," she told ATG. "There was no prior discussion.

"We have had some lean years at the centre; three years ago there were only 14 dealers here. But we have such a good following at the centre and a number of us are looking for alternative space together."

Summer Trade

Mr Irby added: "Woburn Abbey has always been proud of the centre and the dealers within it. We are keeping the centre open until September 1 to provide time for dealers to find new premises and ensure they are able to take advantage of the visitor numbers over the summer period. At this stage there are no plans for the building."

John Bly, who has two shops at the centre, told ATG: "It's a great shame about the closure if they can't afford to run it, but there are considerable costs in keeping the centre open in the winter when the park is closed. Also the centre needed exposure through massive advertising campaigns and that was not possible."

Midas Fairs' antiques fair in Woburn Abbey's Sculpture Gallery on November 23-24 is not affected by the closure.